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Archive for the 'Transcription' Category

Transcription Update – 11 November to 8 December 2017

By Louise Seaward, on 8 December 2017

Hello! Welcome to the latest statistics update from Transcribe Bentham.

The past four weeks have been very busy at the Transcription Desk.  We’ve had many new transcribers joining us and our regular volunteers have been working as hard as ever.  All this means that our transcription rate has nearly doubled over the past month!  A huge thank you to everyone who has undertaken some transcription for us. We are very grateful that you can fit us in during the hectic Christmas period.

Here are the full statistics – as of 8 December 2017.

19,472 manuscript pages have now been transcribed or partially-transcribed. Of these transcripts, 18,605 (95%) have been checked and approved by TB staff.

Over the past four weeks, volunteers have worked on a total of 223 manuscript pages. This means that an average of 56 pages have been transcribed each week during the past month.

Check out the Benthamometer for more information on how much has been transcribed from each box of Bentham’s papers!

Welcome to Transcribe Bentham!

By Louise Seaward, on 6 December 2017

Jeremy Bentham

Jeremy Bentham

‘Many hands make light work. Many hands together make merry work‘, wrote the philosopher and reformer, Jeremy Bentham (1748 – 1832) in 1793.

In this spirit, we cordially welcome you to Transcribe Bentham, a double award-winning collaborative initiative which is crowdsourcing the transcription of Bentham’s previously unpublished manuscripts.

Anyone can start transcribing at our Transcription Desk.  Your transcripts will contribute to the production of Bentham’s Collected Works and preserve Bentham’s writings into the future.

Find out more about Transcribe Bentham in the sidebar menu on the left, or scroll down to read the latest news from the Transcribe Bentham blog.  Happy transcribing!

Project Update – what’s next for Transcribe Bentham?

By Louise Seaward, on 1 December 2017

As we come towards the end of another year, I’ve got my thinking cap on.  I have been considering ways in which we can improve the Transcribe Bentham Transcription Desk, following the thought-provoking results of our recent user survey and impressive activity of participants at the Bentham Hackathon.   I have also been reading about the experiences of other crowdsourcing projects and looking at the functionalities and layout of websites like Shakespeare’s World, the Smithsonian Transcription Centre, Survey of London: Histories of Whitechapel.  Armed with this information, I am working on a plan to upgrade elements of our site to ensure that it remains fun and interesting for users to interact with.  I would welcome any feedback on these ideas in the comments to this post or by email.  I will also be contacting our most active users to ask if there are any glaring omissions from my blueprint!

My thinking cap is a pink bobble hat…

Technical

There are lots of technical improvements we would like to make to the Transcription Desk – from the installation of a ‘next page’ button so that users can easily move from transcribing one manuscript page to the next to making it possible for users to download images and transcripts from the site.  A lack of resources means that significant technical changes are not possible right now but we are hopeful that we will be able to make some enhancements in 2018.  This will involve updating the site with the latest version of Mediawiki, improving our spam filters and making it easier for us to upload new material for volunteers to transcribe.

Instructions

The current guidelines for volunteer transcribers were laid out by Bentham Project researchers in 2010.  Although they have been updated slightly over the years, they are due an overhaul.  The key elements of the instructions will remain unchanged but I would like to clarify information that is currently  a little ambiguous.  I’m thinking of new guidance on how to transcribe tables, pencil markings, printed text and unusual symbols – is there anything else I’m forgetting?

Help for new transcribers

Improved transcription guidelines will be particularly important for new transcribers who join our initiative.  I am considering how I can welcome and help new volunteers, many of whom may be overwhelmed by Bentham’s complex handwriting and intricate ideas.  This question of supporting new users really came out in the Bentham Hackathon, where one team worked on a ‘sandbox’ area where users could consult simplified instructions, practice on a handful of easy manuscripts and gain more immediate feedback on their efforts.

User experience

Our most active users already know how to transcribe Bentham’s writings and they like using our site in its current form (at least, that’s what they tell me!).  But I hope that a few changes could help to make Transcribe Bentham a more enjoyable place to be.  Some of our users may be interested in signing up to a Transcribe Bentham email newsletter to receive the latest news about the project, or participating in a user forum or group where they can discuss transcription with others.  I think we can do more to showcase the work of the transcribers; making sure they understand how they are credited for the work they undertake and highlighting the interesting topics that they have been transcribing.  I also hope that more discussion of the subjects that Bentham Project researchers are working on (and would like transcribed) will be motivating for volunteers.

That all looks like more than enough to be getting on with! New and existing volunteers will be able to transcribe as they always have but I am hopeful that these small changes will improve their experience  and help us to sustain Transcribe Bentham into the future.

Transcription Update – 14 October to 10 November 2017

By Louise Seaward, on 14 November 2017

Hello and welcome to the latest statistics update from Transcribe Bentham.

We’re happy to report that our volunteers have been contributing transcripts steadily across the past four weeks.  We need to take this moment to say a huge thank you to everyone who has spent some time working on the site!   We are also planning some forthcoming improvements for our Transcription Desk, which will hopefully make it more user-friendly.  These developments are based on the results of our recent user survey and the ideas generated at the Bentham Hackathon we hosted in assocation with IBM.  More information coming soon!

Back to the statistics – these are the latest statistics as of 10 November 2017.

19,249 manuscript pages have now been transcribed or partially-transcribed. Of these transcripts, 18,478 (95%) have been checked and approved by TB staff.

Over the past four weeks, volunteers have worked on a total of 113 manuscript pages. This means that an average of 28 pages have been transcribed each week during the past month.

Check out the Benthamometer for more information on how much has been transcribed from each box of Bentham’s papers!

Project Update – the Bentham Hackathon, a weekend well spent

By Louise Seaward, on 24 October 2017

The Bentham Project is tired (but happy!) this week, as we spent the weekend taking part in our first Hackathon.  It was an inspiring few days and we came away hugely impressed by the useful and creative digital research tools that our hackers produced over the course of a weekend.

The Bentham Hackathon was held in partnership with the technology company IBM, along with the support of UCL Centre for Digital Humanities and UCL Innovation and Enterprise.  It was designed as a collaborative and open event where participants could work together to explore how digital tools can help us to research Bentham’s philosophy.

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The Hackathon took place over one evening and two full days between 20 and 22 October 2017 and brought together coders, developers, computer scientists, digital humanists, humanities researchers and some of the volunteer transcribers from Transcribe Bentham.

By the Saturday morning, the participants had formed 6 teams who were ready to #hackBentham.  They were working on the following challenges set out by the Bentham Project:

  1. How can we use keyword searching to explore Bentham’s writings?
  2. Can we use technology to decipher Bentham’s difficult handwriting?
  3. Can we build a user-friendly interface for navigating and transcribing documents?
  4. Can we build a more user-friendly version of the Transcribe Bentham crowdsourcing platform?

The attendees had a large amount of data to work with: thousands of images of Bentham’s manuscripts and transcripts of their content, metadata for the entirety of the Bentham papers held both at UCL and the British Library and various printed editions of Bentham’s writings and correspondence.

IBM provided access to their Bluemix platform where the hackers could experiment with the Object Store, Watson Knowledge Studio and Node-RED applications.  IBM also used this platform to pre-process some of the Bentham data so that the participants could get to work quickly.

The teams worked diligently all weekend, with the support of members of the Bentham Project and developers from IBM.  Coding and discussion went on until 8:30pm on the Saturday evening, fuelled by pizza, coffee and Coca Cola!

On Sunday afternoon it was time for the teams to submit and present their final outputs.  IBM generously provided prize money of £1000 for the event and it was up to a panel of judges from the Bentham Project, IBM and UCL Innovation and Enterprise to award the spoils!

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First up was the ‘Bencharms’ team, who used IBM Cloudant to produce a more attractive version of the Transcribe Bentham Transcription Desk, with enhanced functionalities like allowing users to see more easily whether a page has already been transcribed.  They also had the idea of a mobile app where users could contribute to Transcribe Bentham by transcribing single words.

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Presentation from ‘Bencharms’ team.

Team ‘XScribe’ put together a searching interface for the Bentham papers, where users would be able to look for keywords but also see whether certain manuscripts have already been transcribed.  They also worked on image extraction and segmentation to make it easier for transcribers to match the line of their text transcription to the corresponding line in the image.  Again, these ideas have the potential to speed up the transcription process significantly.

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Presentation from ‘XScribe’ team.

Two teams ‘Bentham Budds’ and ‘Benthamligraphy’ chose to work on a language model that could predict the words that Bentham would be most likely to use.  They used Tensorflow and IBM’s Node-RED software for machine learning to train a model using a sample of transcripts of Bentham material.  Such a model could increase productivity of Transcribe Bentham volunteers and Bentham Project researchers as Bentham’s handwriting is often so difficult to read.

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Presentation from ‘Benthamligraphy’ team.

‘QSP’ was a team which included two volunteer transcribers from Transcribe Bentham and they decided to work on a sandpit area to help orientate new users of the platform.  Their ‘Box 999’ area included helpful videos and links for new transcribers and also allowed users to practice transcribing pages and get immediate feedback on any errors.  This was a fitting suggestion as we find it difficult to attract new volunteers to Transcribe Bentham, possibly because people can be daunted by the prospect of transcribing a complete page on their own.

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Presentation from QSP team.

But the winning team was ‘Bentham’s Head’!  Their fantastic site called Locate Bentham not only has the potential to facilitate existing research questions but could also generate new areas of enquiry.  The team created an interface where users can perform keyword searches on Bentham transcripts, view a Google map of the places mentioned in Bentham’s correspondence, trace the development of Bentham’s ideas over time, examine Bentham’s social network based on his list of correspondents and even analyse Bentham’s personality using IBM Watson Personality Insights.  This was an amazing breadth of resources, embedded in a functional and attractive interface.  Well done team!

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Presentation from ‘Bentham’s Head’ team.

The Bentham Project had little idea what could happen at a Hackathon but we were struck by the concentration and creativity of all the teams.  A big thank you to everyone who took part and to our partners at IBM, UCL Centre for Digital Humanities and UCL Innovation and Enterprise.

We want to continue to develop some of the ideas and connections made at the Hackathon; to improve both Transcribe Bentham and the digital research tools at the Bentham Project’s disposal.  IBM have kindly allowed participants continued access to the Bluemix platform in the short-term and we are planning to get involved in the upcoming Learn Hack at UCL on 24-26 November.  Watch this space for more info!